Lawmakers baffled that immigration getting short shrift in Washington


By James Hohmann


President Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord on Thursday and Republicans are gearing up to return to Washington next week for the next round of debate on health care. But there’s another pressing issue that’s getting less attention but that lawmakers from both parties are warning needs it: a comprehensive immigration overhaul. That is especially ironic because many lawmakers believed immigration would be among Trump’s first issues of concern given that one of his campaign’s central promises was building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I’m hoping that we can do immigration reform later in the year or in the coming years. We’ve got to,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told a chamber of commerce meeting in Glendale, Ariz. that I covered earlier this week.

Meanwhile in California, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) told the Code 2017 conference that Congress is failing to assist “dreamers,” the children of undocumented immigrants, and higher-skilled workers trying to get visas to work in the United States or to stay and continue working.

That’s partly because “There are a lot of people who are the legislators who will make the decision at the federal level about immigration who do not have any experience with this population,” she said.

“We need to actually create more opportunities for policymakers and opinion leaders to meet” with people affected by immigration policy, Harris added.

Seven members of Congress are planning to do that on Saturday during a visit to Tijuana, Mexico to meet with U.S. military veterans who’ve been deported south of the border. The veterans are either green-card holders, or legal permanent residents, or “dreamers” who’ve been deported because they committed minor, nonviolent crimes or somehow got caught up in the immigration system’s crosshairs. In most cases, they were eligible for citizenship but didn’t pursue it or misunderstood that the applications process wouldn’t be any easier for them just because they served in uniform.

The lawmakers, all Democrats and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, plan to visit the Deported Veterans Support House in hopes of building support for legislation that would allow the veterans to return to the United States, obtain a green card and eventually apply for citizenship.

“I know that right now Washington is consumed a lot by the Russia investigation, but Americans are also concerned about other issues like jobs and health care and education, but also that we do right by our veterans,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), who organized the trip.

“There are at least 230 of these veterans we know about who have been deported, who have served the United States, who put their lives on the line for their country and who now find themselves in a strange land, many of them have never known Mexico as their home at all,” Castro added. “Whether Congress has the political will to do anything is an open question.”

Despite Flake and Castro’s pleas, Washington is consumed by the “TRussia” investigations – yes, that’s the nickname I use to describe  Russia-related probes, please help me make it a thing – and lawmakers are gearing up for months-long fights over health, federal spending and next year’s budget.There’s likely little space and time for anything else. Democrats like Castro – mostly shut out of the debates over health care and the budget – are frustrated that beyond the big-ticket legislation, “Trump’s not doing anything right now. Literally, what other bill besides the health care bill is he doing?”

Castro will be joined on the trip by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), chairman of the CHC, and Reps. Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Vicente Gonzalez (D-Tex.).

Overall, 10,644 noncitizens were serving in the U.S. military as of last January and another 11,524 noncitizens were in the Reserves, according to Castro’s office. Most of them hail from the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica, South Korea and the Dominican Republic. It’s unclear how many noncitizens may have been deported to other countries.

Members of the CHC are pushing for passage of several bills to help the veterans. Grijalva’s “Veterans Visa and Protection Act” would require the Department of Homeland Security to stop deporting noncitizen veterans and allow deported veterans who didn’t commit violent crimes to return and obtain a green card. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a former Marine, has introduced similar legislation.

Vargas has proposed the “Naturalization at Training Sites Act” that would require that noncitizen enlisted service members or reservists be informed of naturalization options available to them when they begin basic training. The Defense Department also would be required to establish naturalization offices at training sites.

Barragan, a first-term Mexican-Mexican Americanr, said she is especially concerned that some immigrants enlisting in the military wrongly presume they can automatically obtain citizenship.

“I don’t want to say that they’re misguided, but I don’t think they’re clearly told they’ll have to go through the regular process and that they don’t have citizenship automatically,” Barragan said.

No Republicans are joining Castro and Barragan on the trip, “but my understanding is that there is bipartisan interest in making sure that we are taking care of our veterans,” she added. “I can’t see a better place to start than on this issue here.”


— The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to reinstate its controversial travel ban on Thursday night, asking justices to overturn a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that kept a freeze in place on the divisive executive order. Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow report: “The 10-to-3 ruling last week was one in a series of legal defeats for the administration, as judges across the country have said Trump’s claim of protecting the nation was cover for making good on a campaign promise to ban Muslims from entry into the United States. In turning to the high court, Justice Department lawyers said the 4th Circuit should have considered only the language of the executive order and not second guessed the president’s motivations. It would take the votes of five of the nine justices to grant the government’s request, and require a finding that the government was likely to prevail on the merits of its argument — and that it would be irreparably harmed if the 4th Circuit’s decision remained in place.”

— “The White House is telling federal agencies to blow off Democratic lawmakers’ oversight requests, as Republicans fear the information could be weaponized against [Trump].” Politico’s Burgess Everett  and Josh Dawsey report: “At meetings with top officials for various government departments this spring, Uttam Dhillon, a White House lawyer, told agencies not to cooperate with such requests from Democrats … It appears to be a formalization of a practice that had already taken hold, as Democrats have complained that their oversight letters requesting information from agencies have gone unanswered since January, and the Trump administration has not yet explained the rationale. The declaration amounts to a new level of partisanship in Washington, where the president and his administration already feels besieged by media reports and attacks from Democrats. The idea, Republicans said, is to choke off the Democratic congressional minorities from gaining new information that could be used to attack the president.”


  1. Al Franken’s newly released memoir contains an entire chapter detailing his grievances against Ted Cruz – whom he describes as “the guy in the office who microwaves fish.” In a recent interview promoting the book’s release, Franken told a story about how some lawmakers tried to avoid drawing Cruz in the Senate’s “secret Santa” gift exchange. “I’ve had people pick out Cruz’s name and then drop it on the floor,” he said. “I’ve actually had that happen.” (Derek Hawkins)
  2. What happens when you join the Islamic State and then change your mind? That’s the question being asked this week in the trial of Mohamad Khweis, a 27-year-old Fairfax County native who traveled to Syria and offered himself to ISIS before realizing he had “made a huge mistake.” While his crimes are undisputed, they also appear to be non-violent – and as proceedings begin, the jury will weigh whether a mistake of that gravity can be forgiven under terrorism laws. (Rachel Weiner)
  3. Megyn Kelly is traveling to Austin to interview Infowars host Alex Jones for her new NBC show. Jones confirmed the news on Thursday, even as the well-known conspiracy theorist began branding the interview immediately as “a trap.”
  4. Organizers are planning a “March for Truth” to demand an independent investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Protesters will gather and march Saturday across 100 cities, including Munich, Germany, and Lima, Peru. The event’s D.C. organizers hope to arrange protesters into a formation spelling “Investigate Trump” and then take an aerial photo of the message. (Perry Stein)
  5. Teenagers in India are calling a helpline to prevent their friends’ child marriages —desperately seeking help for a practice that has made an estimated 47 percent of young girls wives before the age 18.  (Vidhi Doshi)
  6. You can now add “covfefe” to your Words With Friends repertoire. The popular Scrabble-like mobile app defines the word as “the amount and quality of reporting when autocorrect fails you at 3am.” (AP)
  7. Walmart is asking its employees to deliver packages to customers’ homes. To better compete with Amazon and other e-commerce retailers, Walmart is asking employees at two of its stores to deliver customers’ packages using their own cars. The voluntary program provides extra compensation to workers, and it could benefit rural areas given that 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Walmart.  (Money)

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